Charette: Support Democracy, Not So-Called “Neutrality”

By now, many of us are aware of the Swarthmore Inn Project, which, after a decade of stagnation, is finally up on its feet. However, another opposing venture has been pretty darn mobile as well—that is, some student efforts to ensure the future developer is cajoled into signing a “neutrality agreement.” Members of the Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP), have vocalized a concern for workers’ rights and, echoing the modern labor movement, have translated those concerns into calls for “neutrality” and “card-check”.

Folks ought to be a little ruffled to see Student Council openly embrace this one-sided dialogue at a weekly meeting. Unfortunately, the seriousness of this antidemocratic tap-dance has been largely minimized here on campus. I assume all of us support a quality work environment. That’s not the issue at hand. No, my writing this is not some scheme on the part of corporate fat cats. Truth be told, I’m a dog person.

We’ve been fed the line that neutrality acts guard against employer/employee “fighting.” Last time I checked, Rocky Balboa doesn’t reside in the “ville”. Regardless, the debate has mostly pooh-poohed the ethical concerns and deceptive practices which cruise in the back seat of the neutrality-agreement-mobile. Under current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) law, a union is required to file a petition with NLRB demonstrating proof, usually via “authorization cards” that at least 30 percent of the employees support a workplace union. From there, after affirming the evidence, the NLRB supervises a secret ballot election by the employees. Should union support indeed garner the most votes, then presto! The NLRB confirms the union’s legitimacy and the employer bargains with the union in terms of wages, benefits, etc. Smacks of reason, fairness, and professionalism, don’t you think?

Unfortunately for Big Labor, unionization has suffered a bit of a bulldozing in recent decades, with unions winning only about half of the elections they spearhead. Rather than examine the product they’re peddling, unionists have attempted to re-write the rules with initiatives like the dubiously titled “Employee Free Choice Act” congressional bill, neutrality agreements, and card check.

Such endeavors circumvent the traditional secret ballot procedure. In the name of “neutrality”, unions invoke a card check in which workers have their John Hancocks weaseled out of them in a public setting, often in the company of labor organizers. Card check, you see, calls for only a simple majority of employee signage, while the employer’s legal right to express his side of the story is silently contracted away under a “gag rule”. Many such agreements grant union access to the work premises during the workday, employer picketing, and access to workers’ personal contact information. If this is all in the name of “workplace fairness” and “social justice”, where’s the fairness, where’s the justice, where’s the democratic beef?

Many chains and hotel associations have voluntarily become parties to the neutrality agreement affair, typically with the rational that they are buying “labor peace” and fewer headaches for the hotel, owner, and operator. It should be noted that many large urban chains have already conceded into neutrality agreements. With SLAP’s attempts to usher neutrality agreements into the borough of Swarthmore, we are witnessing Big Labor’s politics trickle-down through the economy like a particularly potent brew of coffee. Now, as much as I enjoy strong java, I’d rather not see neutrality agreements wash ashore here in Swarthmore. I support democratic elections and dignity — for the employee and the employer. Let’s be frank: “Neutrality Agreements” sure ain’t neutral.